I'm wanting to create a border next year with plants solely beneficial to bees or butterflies. I'm having no problem finding flowering plants, but I'm wanting to use grasses too. Which grasses are a food source for bees/butterflies?
Grasses are wind pollinated so they don't have nectar and are only occasionally a food source for insect larvae. Just grow them because they look good!
I've watched bumblebees collecting pollen from Timothy and Crested Dog's Tail. They do did quite methodically and deliberately. They're both very nice grasses too. You could try Sweet vernal grass too. It's a very early grass and smells incredible and you can use it to flavour vodka.
Agree with land girl
Is your bed in the sun? Some stipa tenuissima and deschampsia cespitosa in drifts can look stunning.
In the shade, ophiopogon nigrescens (black grass) coupled with Japanese rye grass hakkonechloa, looks fab.
Though grasses don't provide nectar they have masses of pollen as anyone with hay fever will tell you. Though butterflies won't eat pollen many species depend on grasses as a food plant for their larvae and bees most certainly do harvest pollen and I have observed bees doing so on the grasses I mentioned above. It was more than obvious that is exactly what they were doing, as I said they were quite methodical about their behaviour. Pollen provides protein, carbohydrates lipids, sugar etc. There is absolutely no reason to assume that the ready supply of pollen in a grass flower head is of any less of nutritional value to a bee than from a dicotyledonous flower.
Hole reported in 1911 bees collecting pollen from grasses in India. Burtt Davey in 1914 mentions bees collecting pollen from maze in Kenya. In 1933 Richards and Davies describe pollination by Melipona bees of Pariana grass.
Grasses and the Butterflies that feed on them:
Blue Moon Grass (Sesleria caerulea) food plant for Scotch Argus
Creeping Soft Grass (Holcus mollis) - Essex Skipper & Small Skipper
Downy Oat Grass (Helictotrichon pubescens) - Meadow Brown
Early Hair Grass (Aira praecox) - Grayling
Various grasses - Arran Brown
One of the best is Yorkshire Fog Holcus which supports
Marbled WhiteSmall SkipperSpeckled Wood &Wall
Yorkshire fog is a very nice wild grass, it has pinky mauve flowers and very tactile too. Please see:
Sweet vernal-grass - Anthoxanthum odoratum may be one of the food plants for the larvae of butterflies in the brown and skipper families
I have a Phormium called Yellow Wave (not grass but grass-ish) which eventually sprouted a tall flower spike this year. It was absolutely dripping nectar and attracted all manner of things including wasps unfortunately!
I am also trying to attract more bees and butterflies. I particularly wanted to attract the hummingbird hawk moth. I planted some miniature buddlia earlier this year and have never seen so many butterflies in my garden!
I accept what Jim says, but grass pollen won't be a primary source of food for bees as compared with flower pollen it has low nutritional value for the bee larvae. I personally wouldn't want the grasses mentioned growing in my garden borders as many are invasive, although I'm happy to let them grow in the wild part of my garden.
How about the angels fishing rod, grasses but with flowers - comes in lots of different colours
Dierama or angels fishing rods have strappy leaves but they are not grasses.